This media fixation on identity politics, alongside pre-existing misperceptions, ultimately skews the public’s sense of reality. The number of unarmed black men killed by police in the Washington Post’s own database in 2019 was between 13 and, using a very broad definition of “unarmed”, 27. Yet nearly half of “very liberal” Americans think the number is between 1,000 and 10,000. There were over twice as many unarmed whites killed by police as blacks but, as John McWhorter, author of the new book Woke Racism notes, this never makes the news because it doesn’t fit the narrative of white racial violence against African-Americans.
The narrative of police racism is exacerbated by party politics. A young black man is around ten times as likely to die in a car accident than from a police bullet, but only 10% of African-American Democrats and 20% white liberals get this question right — while more than 70% white Trump voters do. While there are some who are undecided, Figure 2 (below) shows that 95% of blacks and 70% of whites who believe “all white Republicans are racist” agree with the statement.